In two recent decisions, federal district courts in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Southern District of Illinois, respectively, considered the Government’s motions to dismiss False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies and marketing consultants alleging violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) related to patient assistance programs.  As discussed in our previous post, the two lawsuits were among 11 similar qui tam actions filed by corporate relators described by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as “shell companies,” and which DOJ sought to preemptively dismiss based on its view that the claims lacked merit and that litigation of the actions would waste “scarce government resources.”

In the Pennsylvania case, U.S. ex rel. Harris v. EMD Serono, Inc., the court granted DOJ’s motion to dismiss over the relators’ objection.  In the Illinois case, U.S. ex rel. CIMZNHCA, LLC v. UCB, Inc., the court denied DOJ’s motion, declining to dismiss the case.  Although reaching different dispositions, both courts parted ways with a prior decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by holding that the Government does not possess “unfettered” discretion to dismiss FCA actions.  Instead, the courts joined two other circuits in requiring the Government to demonstrate that its decision to dismiss an FCA action has “a rational relationship to a government interest.”

The circuit split highlighted by the decisions in EMD Serono and UCB is one of increasing importance in light of indications that the Government may be more aggressive in seeking preemptive dismissals of qui tam actions following the January 2018 Granston Memo.


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In a remarkable move, the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently sought dismissal of 11 False Claims Act (FCA) cases, each of which assert that patient assistance services supplied by pharmaceutical manufacturers constitute unlawful kickbacks. The 11 complaints were brought against various pharmaceutical companies by what DOJ described as “shell companies” backed by the National Healthcare Analysis Group, a company formed for the purpose of filing FCA cases. In seeking dismissal, DOJ argued that the suits ran counter to government interests and wasted “scarce government resources.”

According to the DOJ, the 11 lawsuits involved “essentially the same theories of FCA liability” concerning “white coat marketing,” free “nurse services,” and “reimbursement support services.” Specifically, in a motion to dismiss filed on December 17, 2018, in the Eastern District of Texas, DOJ seemingly defended these manufacturer programs noting the government’s “strong interest” in ensuring that “patients have access to basic product support related to their medication, such as access to a toll-free patient-assistance line or instructions on how to properly inject or store their medication.” The government further argued that the allegations “conflict with important policy and enforcement prerogatives” of federal healthcare programs, and asserted that the relators “should not be permitted to indiscriminately advance claims…against an entire industry that would undermine common industry practices the federal government has determined are, in this particular case, appropriate and beneficial to federal healthcare programs and their beneficiaries.”


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Bass, Berry & Sims Healthcare Fraud & Abuse attorney Brian Roark provided a comment to Home Health Care News about the government’s decision not to intervene in the False Claims Act (FCA) case brought against HCR Manor Care’s hospice division, Heartland. In the case, a whistleblower accused Heartland of submitting false claims and statements to Medicare. However, as Brian points out in the article, Heartland isn’t “necessarily out of the woods yet; the government declining to intervene doesn’t mean an FCA case won’t go forward.”

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Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys John Kelly and Rob Platt authored an article in Life Science Compliance Update outlining risk areas faced by pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers related to False Claims Act (FCA) violations. According to Department of Justice data, these manufacturers accounted for nearly half of FCA recoveries within the healthcare industry in 2016. As John and Rob discuss, last year’s enforcement targeted several key risk areas, including speaker programs and off-label promotions, discount pricing programs, and violations of current good manufacturing practices (cGMP).
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